Lessons from an Angel

Someone once suggested that maybe my son was an actual angel sent to change my life, to help me out of the deep, dark hole I’d dug for myself, and that’s why he didn’t stay for long. He taught me so much in his ten short months in my arms. He taught me that I don’t need drugs and alcohol to mask my pain, that I can be happy sober. He taught me what love really feels like. Real, pure, unconditional love. He taught me that I can be loved by someone good, and what if feels like to be loved most. And he taught me what real fear and heartbreak are. Fear not the demon hiding in the dark, or that a lover is cheating. Heartbreak is not a boyfriend leaving for someone younger and prettier. I have never experienced the oxygen-vacant fear I felt before the morning I found him in his crib and turned him over. I have never felt heartbreak as I did when I realized I was far, far too late. As I write this, I feel like I’m reliving that morning… The phone call to 911, carrying his body downstairs, the paramedics and the cops, the moment they told me they couldn’t do anything. This is a nightmare I never thought I would have to live through. 

But what if he really was an angel sent to help me? I don’t think that’s possible, as angels don’t have souls. That would mean my son has no soul and that can’t be possible. But I think he was sent to change my life. I saw no way out until he was in my belly. Even then, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to be a good mom. Not because I thought I’d turn back to drugs or anything, but I just didn’t feel capable of taking care of such a tiny, important little person of my very own when I hadn’t even been able to properly take care of myself for so long. But I did it. I wasn’t perfect, but we love each other more than I ever thought possible. I wonder if he remembers me? I wonder if he sees me missing him? I wonder if he misses me? I wonder how long I have to wait to hold him again? It has been 114 days and about 15 hours, 21 minutes since I last held him alive. 

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Triggers

Triggers are weird. Sometimes, they’re exactly what you’d expect them to be, like the photo I wrote about in my last post or a movie that has a baby dying in it. Of course those things are going to make you feel like someone just rammed a hot poker through your chest. But some of them are so unexpected and when they blindside you, it feels like an attack as you’re simply going about your day. For me, seeing those packages of pre-cooked sliced chicken or turkey sets me off. I’d bought a couple of those for Daxon as he began preferring food he could pick up himself and chew. A few days after he died, I noticed a package at the back of the fridge. It sat there for a long time. I couldn’t throw it out. I guess Dan must have, eventually. There’s still a pear in there that I bought for him. I’m sure it’ll sit there until it goes bad and Dan tosses it out, too. I just can’t do it, silly as it sounds. That is my son’s pear. Sometimes, I’ll just be sitting in the tub and suddenly start bawling because I remember lying him on my chest when he was tiny and we would bathe together. He would get hungry and I’d breastfeed him right there in the bathtub. That’s one of the things I miss most – bathtime. Especially when he got older and discovered bath toys. Seeing those in stores sets me off. My mom said it’s strange things that set her off, as well. I thought being around my friends’ kids would be difficult, but for the most part, it actually seems to help a bit. Only in short burts, though, or my anxiety builds and I just want to hold my own baby and I feel like I’m going to crack. I know everyone says it’s okay to not be okay and to cry, but I still feel awkward letting go and I know it makes everyone else feel that, too. 

This pregnancy is almost a constant trigger. I remember how Dax felt the first time he kicked, how his footbecame lodged in one spot below my rib age for the last couple months and it drove me crazy, how I’d rub my belly and imagine all the amazing things we would do, who he might be, what kinds of things he might be into. I don’t think I’ve done that even once with this baby, now that I think of it… I feel guilty for it. But then when I do focus on the new baby, I also feel guilty, like I’m trying to replace Dax. I’m sure I’ll love this baby, too, even if it takes a bit longer, but I know there will probably be so many triggers along the way. All of the firsts Dax and I had are going to be replayed in only a few months and I’m sure they’re going to cut deep. I only hope that, by that time, those things that remind me of Daxon will make me smile rather than cry. 


December 25, 2015. The day my baby was born. 

I always thought of PTSD only as something people in the military experienced. Diving for the ground when a vehicle backfires or someone sets of fireworks, waking up in the night, sweating and screaming, hearing bombs and gunshots where there are none. I’m beginning to understand mine. I thought all of this was just grief, but my therapist tells me it is quite different. 

Last night, I was browsing through Facebook before bed and I saw this article about funny breastfeeding mishaps which was accompanied by a couple of photos, before you even open the link. One of the photos was of a baby’s face that was all discoloured, like blood had pooled in certain places… It looked far to similar to Daxon’s on the morning I found him and I was instantly sobbing uncontrollably. It felt like I’d just found him all over again and I had to relive that horrible day. Horrible day…that doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. There are no words to describe the nightmare of that day. Every adjective diminishes the true horror I felt. I still feel. There was a short period where I was mostly able to block those images out, of him lying face down in his crib, of how his body felt in my arms, of the smell of his vomit as I made the futile attempt at performing CPR on his mottled little face…. But now I see it all the time again. For the last week or so, I see these things out of nowhere and I just want to die. 

I can’t finish this right now…

First Day of Healing

I’ve been slowly realizing lately that the rest of my life will forever be shrouded in darkness. I feel that, even as I heal and my life begins to seem full again, even on those sunny days full of love and laughter, there will always be a dark blue cloud of sorrow hovering nearby. I’ve connected with a few other moms who have lost their babies to SIDS and they all say the same thing: it will always hurt…but it will get easier. One woman said that, even 25 years later, she still regresses into denial. That it can’t be real, her baby can’t really be gone, he has to come back, there must be something she hasn’t tried. I was feeling like that for a few days last week. I have a lot over the last three months, honestly. I feel like I haven’t done enough, like I should be working harder to bring my baby home even though I know there is no way. I feel like I have failed my son.

I saw both my doctor and my grief councillor yesterday. I had my first prenatal physical. When the doctor got out the Doppler, I was excited at first. My boyfriend was there with me to hear the heartbeat and he had my phone out to record it. We sat there for so long… I watched her face as she searched across my abdomen and belly for the familiar fast-paced heartbeat of a tiny baby in utero. Every so often, we could hear mine. As time went on and she searched and searched, it sped up. I was holding back tears as my throat closed up in pre-meditated anguish. She was going to say it soon, I knew it. She was going to say, “I’m sorry. There is no heartbeat.” But she didn’t. The relief I felt when that 150 bpm heartbeat came from the speaker was like a blade being pulled from my heart. I have been (and still am) terrified of losing this baby, before or after birth. If that should happen, I will need to be committed. I do not want to kill myself, as I’ve explained before. I need to be with my babies when I die. But in that situation…I may not be able to stop myself.

I told my grief councillor this that same day. This was only the second time I’ve seen her, but she is extremely understanding. For a reason I don’t recall, she brought in a physician to this appointment to observe. At first, it was a little awkward, but I talked to the therapist as I would have otherwise. When I mentioned the guilt I have felt for not checking on Dax before I went to bed, especially since my boyfriend put him to sleep on his stomach (which he had been rolling onto lately anyway), the physician interjected and relieved a lot of my guilt. She told me that, unless I was there right at the moment it was happening, there is nothing I could have done. Even if I had checked on him, it could have happened two minutes after I left the room or hours later. Or even if it had happened wenty minutes before I checked on him and I was able to save his life, he would have severe, permanent brain damage. My therapist asked me how I felt about that, as I had obviously thought about it before – there are so many what-ifs that circle my mind constantly. Honestly, I’m not sure that would be better than this. Maybe it would be worse. I don’t mean that just because it would be harder and more work, but he wouldn’t even be the same little boy I know I love. He would need help with everything for the rest of his life. I don’t think it’s fair to wish that on my child out of my selfish desire to hold him and have him here. I believe he is safe and loved where he is now and I will continue to pray every night that I may be there with him when this world is done with me, too.